Monday, February 3, 2014

Determined Discipline

We all do it.

Every single one of us is guilty.

We all know what is good for us…spiritually, physically, etc…we know the right things to do, but we just can’t bring ourselves to do them most of the time.

For instance.  I know that if I get out of bed when my alarm goes off and go exercise I’m going to have more energy, feel healthier, be stronger and just have a way better day.  I know that if I do get up on time that I’m 100% more likely to make it to the bus on time to get to work.  I just know that will happen.  Yet EVERY SINGLE DAY when that alarm goes off, I have to make myself get up.  I don’t want to get up.  I grumble and groan about it and often I’ll talk myself out of it and lay back down and sleep some more.  What’s wrong with a little more sleep?  Nothing really, but I know that my day will not go as well if I don’t discipline myself and exercise.

The same can be said for lots of things in our lives.  We know what is good for us and what is not…yet somehow it is always way easier to choose that which is not good for us and doing the thing that IS good for us is always more difficult.

Why is that?

It’s because the Natural Man lacks what I’ll call “Determined Discipline” and in fact he really hates it.  The Natural Man seeks the easy, lazy path of least resistance. The path that appears to have low levels of difficulty and the one that will bring pleasure NOW…not defer it for later.  This short sightedness leads to problems later, but the Natural Man doesn’t care, he wants pleasure NOW.

So what is wrong with the easy path? The path of least resistance? Why can’t we be lazy once in a while?

You know the answer.  Do I really need to tell you? 

Remember the poem The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost? Here is part of it...

“TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood,   
And sorry I could not travel both   
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—   
I took the one less traveled by,   
And that has made all the difference.”   


Determined Discipline – the way of the Warrior

So the real question is: how can a person, the warrior, develop this determined discipline and put it to work in their journey?

There isn’t a really simple answer and like most things worth doing, it will require a great deal of effort, patience and work to make it happen. Here are a few ideas that I have that might help:

STEP 1 – Acknowledging Weakness and the Need to Change

First you have to be brutally honest with yourself and admit your weakness.  You have to man up and take on those weakness'.  You can’t place any blame anywhere else.  It all goes squarely on your shoulders. I don’t care who did what to you.  It’s yours now so own it.  (in my exercise example, sometimes I have to stay up later with work, honey-do tasks, church calling work, kids homework and other things beyond my control, so it would be easy to blame someone else for me not getting enough sleep…but is that really doing me any good? I didn’t get enough sleep, period.  It’s my problem.  Now get off your butt and work it out.).

Second, you can’t beat yourself up with your weakness.  You simply acknowledge that it is yours and then start figuring out ways to overcome, defeat and otherwise get rid of it. Moaning and whining just makes you bitter and makes you look stupid.  We are men…act like it.

Third be prepared for the counter attack. As you start to make changes to improve, realize that you are going to meet with a LOT of resistance because our common enemy is going to do all he can to stop you from making a positive change and he will attack from all sides even from other people. Some people are funny that way, for some reason when they see someone trying to improve they instantly feel that it makes them look bad so they will attempt to put a stop to it to.  Being prepared for this, is the only way to overcome it.

Those three steps will have to be repeated often as well since you will most likely not succeed the first time you try  and if you are successful, you’ll encounter other weakness’ that need to be corrected along the way.  This doesn’t end by the way, it’s a constant process that we all have to get used too.  Better start now.

STEP 2 - Using Goals & Measuring Success

To accomplish anything, you need to set goals. When you set goals it’s important to remember a few things.

a)    To accomplish a long term goal you need to break it down into a series of short-term, quickly-achievable goals.  This is important to help you stay motivated.
b)    You need to be able to measure your goal in some way. Goals that cannot be measured are doomed to fail…here is an example of a bad goal and a good one.
a.    BAD GOAL – I want to do better at saying my prayers
b.    GOOD GOAL – I want to make sure that I am saying my prayers every morning and every night
(A goal to say your prayers isn’t a bad goal, but the second one puts a number to it and allows you to asses it every day)
Making goals measureable takes a little more effort…but more effort is a good thing.  That is what we are all about here: finding the hard way to do something.
c)    Beware of setting too many goals at once.  If you set too many goals you will most certainly get discouraged and quit.  Simplify!
d)    Rely on others.  Have someone that will check up on you and encourage you to keep going.  In turn, do the same for somebody else. 
e)    Use rewards effectively.  I read about a guy once who hated to run but he wanted to find a way to like it. So he came up with this idea:  Before he went to bed he would put his running shoes on a chair next to his bed where he could see them when he woke up.  On top of the shoes he’d place a small piece of chocolate.  Every time he got out of bed and put the shoes on to go for a run, he got to eat the piece of chocolate.  After a period of time his brain would associate the joy of eating chocolate with going for a run and he was able to form a positive habit.  The reward helped establish a good habit.  (Yes, he did eliminate the chocolate after some time and the joy of running replaced it as a reward.)

STEP 3 - Seek out Hardship & Practice Self Control

Doing things the easy way isn’t always the best way.  In fact it can be harmful and result in us becoming more lazy in our lives.  Sometimes we need to place challenges on our own shoulders just to increase the effort and thus increase the reward.  The harder you work for something, the better it feels to accomplish it. So seek out the path of difficulty and you will find greater rewards and greater levels of discipline in your life.

Our bodies crave activity and exercise.  They are designed for it.  To deny our bodies of hard work will result in decreased mental and physical function.  This becomes more and more difficult to do in a world that has most of us sitting in offices all day typing on computers.  We have to look for ways to break it up and get some activity.  It’s worth it though.

This is also true when it comes to eating healthy.  This is one great way to learn some self-control.  Knowing when enough is enough and when to limit sweets.  Our culture is slowly killing itself with food that is terrible for our bodies and we continue to let food control our lives more and more.  It’s time to take control of life and start eating with wisdom. 

I’ll also add that our brains need exercise too.  So turn off the TV and go read.

In fact, if you really want some control of your life I’d advocate completely eliminating (or very nearly eliminating) video games, social media, youtube, TV, smartphones, etc… I don’t think these things are evil…just very sense dulling and time consuming for all the wrong reasons.  These “screen’s” need to be treated just like any other form of recreation.  They are not the purpose of existence and need to be used sparingly.  Again, I go back to my old Monopoly analogy.  Would you play Monopoly for hours and hours every day?  So why play any other game that way?


True warriors are always training, always on the alert and always sharpening skills.  Can we afford to do less? 

We must be constantly on the lookout for ways to improve and hone our skills in all aspects of our lives.  The minute we stop learning, we stop living.

Does this mean we can never have down time?  Of course not.  Even Navy SEALs need a break.  BUT: when it becomes the focus of our existence to seek recreation and laziness then we need to alter what it is that we are doing.   Occasional breaks are good.  Too many breaks make us weak and destroys discipline.

The secret is to learn to love the work that you do be it school or a full-time job.  Learn to love it then you don’t need as many breaks.

Keep the faith!!